Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Goodbye Girl

The Goodbye Girl; romantic comedy, USA, 1977; D: Herbert Ross, S: Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings
New York. Former dancer Paula and her 10-year old daughter Lucy return to their apartment and find out that Paula's boyfriend left her to make a film in Europe. Worse, still, he sublent the apartment to an actor arriving from Chicago, Elliot Garfield. When Elliot arrives, Paula reluctantly lets him stay in the apartment, since she is short on cash. However, he has his own problems: he stars in a play in which the director wants him to play Shakespeare's Richard III as a gay. The premiere is a disaster, yet Paula and Elliot fall in love. Elliot is hired to play in a movie in Seattle, but convinces Paula that he will return and will not dump her like her ex-boyfriend.

"The Goodbye Girl" is one of those gentle comedies about humanity, where there is no conflict or a real plot, and the storyline is instead focused on the small 'slice-of-life' moments that warm the viewers' hearts. It is somewhat clumsily assembled, with a a few weak episodes (for instance, the episode in which Elliot is hired to be a doorman in a strip club is corny) and Paula is the weak link (Marsha Mason plays her theatrically, but even worse is that her character whines too much and is at times too exclusive to buy that Elliot would fall in love with her), yet its three characters are so lovely and kind you cannot resist but to simply smile at their interactions and small nuances.

A great deal of credit to that has to be given to writer Neil Simon, whose delicious lines sometimes even reach elevated comic-melancholic dimensions of J. L. Brooks and B. Wilder: whether they come from Elliot (after a terrible premiere in which he had to play Richard III as a gay, he snaps and announces that he will suddenly start eating bad food: "I thought you didn't put unnatural things in your body?" - "I don't...I put it into Richard's body! I'm trying to kill that son of a bitch!"), Paula (Elliot announced that he plays his guitar nude in his room. Paula knocks and asks: "Are you decent?", he says "Yes". She enters, and he is playing the guitar naked: "I am decent. I am also naked."; "I wouldn't like him even if I would like him.") or even the 10-year old Lucy ("He is not my type." - "Your type never hangs around to stay your type."). Richard Dreyfuss is great in the leading role: he maybe plays the typical role of a struggling actor, which is always beloved by film awards, but still delivered a genuine and charming performance since his Elliot is such an excellent, sympathetic character.


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